Cantor Arts Center Exhibition Presents Groundbreaking Exhibition of Mid-Century Corporate Design

Creativity on the Line: Design for the Corporate World, 1950–1975

April 26–August 21, 2017

Stanford, California—A major exhibition on view this spring at the Cantor Arts Center presents a fascinating new perspective on the creation and production of mid-century modern design. Creativity on the Line: Design for the Corporate World, 1950–1975, explores the groundbreaking work of major American designers such as Eliot Noyes and Paul Rand (for IBM and Westinghouse), Charles and Ray Eames (for Herman Miller) and Ivan Chermayeff (for Mobil Oil). European designers, including Ettore Sottsass and Marcello Nizzoli (for Olivetti) and Dieter Rams (for Braun), are also represented.

While these designers have been highly regarded for their innovations in classic works of modern design, this exhibition and its accompanying catalogue instead focus on the relationship between the designers of the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s and top management in the large corporations for which they worked. On display are some of the highly prized objects created by these designers, including Eliot Noyes’s Selectric Typewriter for IBM and Lester Beall’s logos for Caterpillar. Quotes are extensively used to illustrate the designers’ fear of “selling out” to commerce.


Creativity_catalogueThe richly illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition includes scholarly essays that expand on subjects related to the exhibition’s main theme. An essay by Wim de Wit, Adjunct Curator of Architecture and Design at the Cantor Arts Center and curator of the exhibition, examines the ambivalence of graphic and industrial designers in their relations with the corporate world. Contributor Greg Castillo, Associate Professor of Architecture in the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley, places the work of post-war designers in the larger cultural and political context of the Cold War and of the developing counterculture of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Louise Mozingo, Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning and Urban Design in the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley, writes about corporate directors who hired prominent architects to make their office buildings look modern, but then asked landscape designers to soften the seemingly stark architectural effect. The book concludes with an essay by Steven McCarthy, Professor in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, about design education at Stanford University in the post-war period. Profiles of the major designers and corporations represented in the exhibition are also included.


Exhibition Support

This exhibition is organized by the Cantor Arts Center. We gratefully acknowledge support from the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University and museum members.


Cantor Arts Center
The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University is a vital and dynamic institution with a venerable history. Founded in 1891 with the university, the historic museum was expanded and renamed in 1999 for lead donors Iris and B. Gerald Cantor. The Cantor’s encyclopedic collection spans 5,000 years, includes more than 45,000 artworks and beckons visitors to travel across the globe and through time: from Africa to the Americas to Asia, from classical antiquity to the present day. With 24 galleries presenting selections from the collection and more than 20 special exhibitions each year, the Cantor serves Stanford’s academic community, draws art lovers from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond and attracts campus visitors from around the world. Free admission, free tours, lectures, family activities and temporary exhibitions make the Cantor one of the most well-attended university art museums in the country and a great resource for teaching and research on campus.


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Visitor Information
The Cantor Arts Center is open six days a week, Wednesday–Monday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m.; closed Tuesday. Admission is free. The Cantor is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends and major holidays. Information: 650-723-4177,


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Press Contact: Florie Hutchinson, 415-515-4696

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Lester Beall (U.S.A., 1903–1969), Style Book for Connecticut General Insurance,1958. Print on board and coated paper, spiral bound. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, Courtesy of Cigna Archives, ©2017 Cigna, L.30.5.2016



Charles Eames (U.S.A., 1907–1978) and Ray Eames (U.S.A, 1912–1988), Molded Fiberglass chair with table arm, for Herman Miller, Inc., 1960–61. Fiberglass, fabric, metal, and plastic. LA County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, Gift of the employees of Herman Miller, Inc., L.31.2.2015



Artist unknown (Italy), Atomic Espresso maker for Brevetti Robbiati, 1950s. Aluminum, brass, plastic, and bakelite. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, L.25.7.2016